Recent News from Engadget

The Morning After: What to expect from Google’s Pixel 7 event

Google’s big Pixel hardware event kicks off Thursday October 6th, and we’ll finally get to hear all the details of the Pixel 7 series and that long-teased (and leaked) Pixel Watch.

Google first showed off a glimpse of its next Pixel phone back in May 2022. It keeps the camera bar style of last year’s Pixel 6, but with an aluminum frame flourish. ​​The base Pixel 7 model will have two rear cameras, and the Pro will have three. Pixel phones’ camera skills are usually their standout feature, so we’re intrigued to hear more. Rumors suggest the Pixel 7 family will start at the same $599 and $899 prices as last year’s phones – which could be even more compelling at a time of rising prices.

Then, there’s the Pixel Watch – Google’s first official smartwatch, ever. It’ll be a hardware showcase for Wear OS 3 with tight Fitbit integration. Expect a prominent crown on the side, a circular watch face and several band options, a la Apple Watch. Can Google match the specs of the current smartwatch king? We’ll be reporting on all the official details later this week. Stay tuned.

– Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missed

YouTube is asking users to subscribe to Premium to watch 4K videos

You might have to pay now to see a clip in its highest quality.

YouTube is asking some viewers to upgrade to Premium to watch videos in 4K resolution. It’s not clear which countries, devices or videos are affected, but reports are appearing across both Reddit and Twitter. YouTube claimed a combined 50 million Premium and Music subscribers last September. That may sound like a lot, but compared to paid media services like Spotify Premium (188 million users as of the second quarter) and Netflix (220.7 million), it’s a little underwhelming.

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Wisk Aero’s latest flying taxi has four seats and can fly itself

It calls the four-passenger craft a ‘candidate for FAA certification.’

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Wisk

Wisk Aero has unveiled its 6th-generation semi-autonomous air taxi, calling it the “first-ever candidate for type certification by the FAA of an autonomous eVTOL.” The design looks like a substantially updated version of the Cora air taxi we saw fly and hover in New Zealand back in 2018. However, getting that coveted FAA certification is a struggle even for established airplane manufacturers, like Boeing – let alone a new company with a brand-new aircraft type.

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There’s a PS5 jailbreak, but only for old firmware

The exploit has some major restrictions.

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Engadget

Almost two years after the PlayStation 5 went on sale, it seems modders have found a way to jailbreak the console, albeit with some significant limitations. A WebKit vulnerability will only work on PS5 systems that run firmware version 4.03 or earlier. If you have updated your PS5 since last October, you will probably not be able to try the exploit. It doesn’t seem likely this jailbreak will be in widespread use anytime soon, due to its limitations and the risk of bricking the console at a time when it still isn’t all that easy to buy one. You can install PT, sure, but you can’t play it.

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FCC will start kicking voice providers out of its robocall database

Calls will be blocked if those providers don’t boost their anti-spam efforts.

Telecom companies slow to adopt anti-robocall measures could soon face stiff punishment in the US. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) now plans to remove seven voice service providers from its Robocall Mitigation Database for failing to comply with required anti-spam efforts, such as implementing STIR/SHAKEN call authentication to prevent spoofing.

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A data-sharing agreement between the US and UK is now in effect

Privacy advocates have raised concerns.

A data-sharing pact between the US and the UK has gone into effect, five years after it was suggested. The two sides claim the Data Access Agreement, which was authorized by the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act in the US, will help law enforcement to combat serious crimes in both countries. Privacy advocates have blasted the initiative for several years. In 2018, just after the bill was introduced, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said it “creates a dangerous precedent for other countries who may want to access information stored outside their own borders, including data stored in the United States.”

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Apple’s second-generation AirPods fall to a new low of $79

Apple may have recently refreshed its AirPods lineup with the launch of the new Pro model, but its older earbuds still offer plenty of features for less money. That’s been the case for the second-generation AirPods for quite a while, but with Walmart and Amazon selling them for just $79 right now, there’s never been a better time to grab a pair. That works out at $80 off their normal price and $10 cheaper than they were during Black Friday 2021. Stock appears to be limited, so you may need to act quickly.

Buy Apple AirPods (2nd Gen) at Walmart – $79Buy Apple AirPods (2nd Gen) at Amazon – $79

If you’ve not paid much attention to Apple’s wireless earbuds, AirPods have become the most popular buds in the space since they first came out. They pair seamlessly with and switch easily between Apple products, with your iOS device recognizing them the minute you open the case. Audio playback will also switch based on which device you’re using. That means you can go from taking a call on your iPhone to listening to music from your MacBook without an issue.

Bear in mind that the model on sale today features the Lightning charging case, not the wireless one. That shouldn’t pose much of an issue, but make sure you check before adding to your basket. Although it’s been over three years since the second-generation AirPods debuted, these buds are a super value buy at this $79 sale price.

US set to impose more trade restrictions on Chinese AI and supercomputer companies

The White House is set to unveil rules that would further restrict access to advanced computing technology in China that could be used by its military, according to The New York Times. The new measures, which may be announced this week, reportedly aim to reduce Beijing’s ability to produce advanced weapons and surveillance systems. 

The new rules would build on restrictions that block companies from selling US-developed technologies to smartphone manufacturer Huawei, first introduced by the Trump administration in 2019. President Biden is expected to apply such restrictions to additional Chinese firms, government research labs and other entities, insiders told the NYT. Companies around the world would then be prohibited from selling any American-made tech to the targeted organizations.

Last month, Reuters reported that the White House could try to curb sales of advanced US-made tools to China’s semiconductor industry. It may also limit exports of American microchips to advanced Chinese supercomputing and data centers. The measures could hit not only government, but academic institutions and internet companies like Alibaba and Tencent. 

While the US has the most performance in the Top500 supercomputer list, China leads in the number of systems. The new US curbs, if enacted, would be the largest effort to combat China’s ability to build supercomputers and data centers. 

While most supercomputing uses are benign, some have malign purposes like weapons development or surveillance. In one instance, a supercomputer built with Intel and NVIDIA chips was used to surveille minority Uyghurs in the nation. Last month, NVIDIA revealed in an SEC filing that the US government was restricting sales of computer chips used for supercomputers and AI to both Russia and China. 

‘The Onion’ filed a real brief with the Supreme Court supporting man jailed for making fun of cops

When was the last time you’ve read an amicus brief? If you’re not involved in the legal profession, chances are you may have never actually spent precious time reading one. This amicus brief (PDF) could change that. It was submitted by The Onion, which describes itself in the brief as “the world’s leading news publication” with “4.3 trillion” readers that maintains “a towering standard of excellence to which the rest of the industry aspires.” In addition to running a highly successful news publication, The Onion said it “owns and operates the majority of the world’s transoceanic shipping lanes, stands on the nation’s leading edge on matters of deforestation and strip mining, and proudly conducts tests on millions of animals daily.” Oh, and its motto is “Tu stultus es.” That’s “you are dumb” in Latin. 

The Onion, of course, is the popular parody website that once named Kim Jong-un as the sexiest man alive. Its team has filed a very real amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of Anthony Novak, who was arrested and jailed for four days after briefly running a Facebook page parodying the police department of Parma, Ohio back in 2016.

According to The Washington Times, Novak had suggested that the cops were racist and lacked compassion in about half a dozen posts within 12 hours that the page was up. Parma’s police department claimed back then that people were confusing its posts with real information from law enforcement. Novak filed a civil suit against the officers that arrested him and the city of Parma, arguing that his constitutional rights were violated. After a federal appeals ruled that the officers were protected by what’s known as “qualified immunity” for law enforcement, he took the battle to the Supreme Court. 

Despite writing the brief in the same voice its publication uses, and despite filling it with outlandish claims and hilarious quips, The Onion made a very real argument defending the use of parody and explaining how it works:

“Put simply, for parody to work, it has to plausibly mimic the original. The Sixth Circuit’s decision in this case would condition the First Amendment’s protection for parody upon a requirement that parodists explicitly say, up-front, that their work is nothing more than an elaborate fiction. But that would strip parody of the very thing that makes it function.

The Onion cannot stand idly by in the face of a ruling that threatens to disembowel a form of rhetoric that has existed for millennia, that is particularly potent in the realm of political debate, and that, purely incidentally, forms the basis of The Onion’s writers’ paychecks.”

As Bloomberg notes, Supreme Court Justices have yet to decide whether to hear the case.

Google delivers the Pixel 4 and 4 XL’s last guaranteed update

If you’ve been holding on to a Pixel 4 for the past three years, you’ll have to get used to going without OS upgrades. Android Policenotes that, as planned, Google has released its last guaranteed software update for the Pixel 4 and 4 XL. They just include the usual round of minor bug fixes and security patches, but you can’t count on anything beyond this. While Google is known to provide one last update as a sendoff, it’s not clear when (or if) that’s coming.

Some Pixel 4 family members are still covered. The Pixel 4a is slated to receive regular version and security updates until August 2023, while the 4a 5G is safe until November that year. And you can rest easier if you’re a Pixel 6 owner. That device line is Google’s first to get five promised years of security updates, so it shouldn’t lose out before fall 2026.

Your Pixel 4 won’t immediately become obsolete, of course. Updates to Google Play Services and apps should keep the Android flagship useful for a while yet, and Google may rush out emergency patches for significant security flaws. Even so, you’ll want to consider a new phone if you insist on a consistent update stream. Google may not have timed this week’s Pixel 7 launch to catch device upgraders, but the debut is certainly convenient.

Twitter finally starts rolling out the edit button, but US users will have to wait

After years of users begging Twitter for an edit button, they’re finally getting their wish. The company is rolling out the long-awaited feature in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but only for Twitter Blue subscribers. The option isn’t available in the US just yet, but Twitter says users there will get access soon. It plans to offer the feature in other markets too.

Twitter Blue subscribers who send a tweet and realize they made a typo or two will have 30 minutes to make edits. They can make changes up to five times during that time frame. For the sake of transparency, edited tweets have a modified timestamp that reads “last edited” and the time of the last change. Click the timestamp and you’ll see the entire edit history.

Twitter said in April that it was at long last starting to test an edit button. There were indications early on that the feature could include an edit history screen. At the beginning of September, Twitter said that it had, in fact, created an edit button. It published a test tweet at the end of the month and, a few days later, the edit button is going out into the wild.

The company is still technically testing the feature — it’ll be available as part of the Labs section of the $5 per month Twitter Blue service. Moreover, you can only edit original tweets and quote tweets, according to a support page. Many types of tweets cannot be edited, such as threads, replies, retweets, pinned tweets, Super Follow tweets and ones you draft on third-party apps.

Still, it’s a start. Twitter’s approach to the edit button makes sense in terms of keeping things as transparent as possible. It’s easy to imagine news organizations making changes to a breaking news tweet that’s going viral as clarifications or more details come in. Maybe if Twitter opens up the edit button to everyone, they’ll be able to fix innocuous typos like “sneak peak” without too much strife.

Serato adds on-the-fly stem isolation and effects to its DJ app

If you’ve been following the progression of DJ apps lately, you’ve probably noticed that extracting stems on-the-fly from your existing library seems to be trending. Serato DJ has now joined the game, offering its own tool for doing just that: Serato Stems. While the final product is slated for a release later this year in both Serato DJ Pro Lite 3.0 and DJ Pro 3.0, existing users can test drive it with the public beta that’s available now. This lets users kick the tires on the upcoming release and provide feedback to help improve the final result.

Serato DJ’s stem-isolating tools are similar to other offerings, letting you separate vocal, melody, bass and drums from any track. Additionally, you get effects including a vocal echo, instrumental echo, instrumental braker and drums echo. These can be accessed directly in the desktop app or assigned to the slicer or sampler performance pads on supported controllers. As you use these tools, you’ll see grayed out or highlighted portions of the waveform corresponding to your selections.

The stem analysis does take a fair bit of processing power, so it’s ideal for users with an M1 or M2 Mac. However, for those on slower laptops, you can pre-analyze select files by dropping them into a “Stems” folder in the crates sidebar. This can take care of the heavy lifting in advance so you don’t have to worry about analyzing tracks as you go during a live set.

Serato has said the company didn’t use AI for their results. Instead, it developed its own algorithm to handle the audio separation. We had a chance to briefly test the new Serato Stems feature and the results are promising. They do vary depending on the tracks you’re using, but even on muddled tracks the quality of isolated segments sounds good and any sound leakage for the various channels seems minimal.

Overall, the Serato Stems feature is fun and easy to use. Plus, it opens up lots of creative opportunities when you consider both the stem isolation and the related effects. There will be more information about this new feature when it’s officially launched later this year. For now, existing Serato DJ users can find the public beta on the company’s website.

FCC will start kicking voice providers out of its robocall database

Telecoms slow to adopt anti-robocall measures could soon face stiff punishment in the US. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) now plans to remove seven voice service providers from its Robocall Mitigation Database for failing to comply with required anti-spam efforts, such as implementing STIR/SHAKEN call authentication to prevent spoofing. The companies have 14 days to “show cause” why they shouldn’t be removed. If they don’t, all their customers will be blocked from making calls. Effectively, their voice businesses are finished.

The companies include Akabis, Cloud4, Global UC, Horizon Technology, Morse Communications, Sharon Telephone and SW Arkansas. In all cases, the companies failed to share their anti-robocall plans even after the FCC warned them about violations. The FCC noted that STIR/SHAKEN is necessary for any provider with an IP-based network, and those without IP still have to show that they’re mitigating illegal robocalls.

The FCC required that all carriers use STIR/SHAKEN by the end of June 2021. Major carriers like AT&T and Verizon (Engadget’s former owner) were quick to adopt the technology. Small providers received extensions, but only so long as they detailed how they’d limit robocalls.

Removals aren’t likely to significantly stem the tide of spam calls. However, the FCC’s move (along with a campaign from state attorneys general) could discourage telecoms that either skimp on anti-robocall defenses or knowingly profit from scammers and telemarketers.

Apple Music now has over 100 million songs

Apple Music just passed a symbolic milestone. Apple has revealed that its streaming music service now has 100 million songs. That’s a significant expansion from the 30 million upon launch in June 2015, and suggests that you’ll probably find the new tunes you want. The company also says it’s adding about 20,000 new tracks to the service every day.

The 100 million mark might give Apple Music an edge over rivals. As of this writing, main competitor Spotify claims it has “over 80 million tracks.” While that’s still a very healthy selection, it does imply you’ll have an easier time finding an indie darling or back catalog title on Apple’s platform than you might elsewhere.

The question, of course, is whether or not that advantage is enough to prompt a switch from another service. It’s not clear how many songs are exclusives, such as original DJ mixes and live sessions. We’ve asked Apple for more data. Those unique offerings might prove enticing if you can’t get enough of a favorite artist, but won’t necessarily sway you if you’re happy to listen to album cuts. If nothing else, the 100 million-song figure gives Apple bragging rights — it can tout a larger library that might reel in first-time streamers worried about finding a favorite record.

A data-sharing agreement between the US and UK is now in effect

As of today, a data-sharing pact between the US and the UK is in effect, five years after it was first floated. The two sides claim that the Data Access Agreement, which was authorized by the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act in the US, will help law enforcement to combat serious crimes in both countries. The Department of Justice called the initiative the first of its kind, adding that it would enable investigators “to gain better access to vital data” to fight serious crimes in a manner that’s “consistent with privacy and civil liberties standards.”

Under the agreement, authorities in one country can request data from ISPs in the other country, as long as it’s related to preventing, detecting, investigating and prosecuting serious crimes including terrorism, transnational organized crime and child exploitation. US officials can’t submit data requests targeting people in the UK and vice-versa — presumably the requests can either be used to assist domestic investigations or investigations into foreign nationals. Authorities also need to adhere to certain requirements, limitations and conditions when they access and use data.

The UK Home Office’s Investigatory Powers Unit will oversee the Data Access Agreement in the UK, while the DOJ’s Office of International Affairs (OIA) will handle matters in the US. The OIA has put together a CLOUD team that will review and certify orders on behalf of federal, state, local and territorial authorities. It will directly submit orders to ISPs in the UK and ensure data is transferred to authorities who requested it.

Privacy advocates have blasted the initiative and the CLOUD Act. In 2018, just after the bill was introduced, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said it “creates a dangerous precedent for other countries who may want to access information stored outside their own borders, including data stored in the United States.” Fight for the Future argued that it would threaten user privacy.

The US is looking to forge pacts with other countries under the CLOUD Act. It signed a deal with Australia last December and entered negotiations with Canada earlier this year.